FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Khalil Mack became UB’s all-time leader in career tackles behind the line of scrimmage Saturday during a season-best effort in a 29-19 victory over UMass at Gillette Stadium.
Mack, a junior linebacker, set a career high with 15 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for losses and 2.5 sacks. He now has 53.5 career tackles behind the line, bettering the record of 50.5 set by Vince Canosa from 1992-95.
“It feels great that it was in a victory,” Mack said. “My dad for the past three weeks told me, you got to get that this week. My teammates helped me and it’s great to get that.”
The Bulls played a lot of coverage in the first half, affording quarterback Mike Wegzyn the time to complete 11-of-20 throws for 102 yards. They came after the freshman hard in the second half, when he was 9 of 20, threw two interceptions and was sacked six times.
“At the start he had too much time,” Mack said. “It was great to get some pressure. We changed the philosophy. We had to get some pressure. He had too much time.”
Mack is the first Bull with 15 tackles in a game since Davonte Shannon had 15 at Miami in 2009.
Mack was in on consecutive stops midway through the first quarter as the Bulls turned away the Minutemen on a pair of goal-to-go attempts from the 1. Mack and Jake Stockman teamed up to halt 6-foot-3, 215-pound running back Michael Cox on third down and Isaac Baugh assisted Mack to thwart Cox on fourth down. It all came about because of Derek Brim’s tackle on Jordan Broadnax following a 9-yard gain to the UB 1.
Kyndal Minniefield’s 33-yard return of Adam Redden’s blocked punt was UB’s first TD off a punt block since Sept. 9, 2006 at Bowling Green. Jared Patterson scored the touchdown that day off a Sherrod Lott block.
It also qualifies, statistically speaking, as UB’s first punt return for a touchdown since Andre Forde went 83 yards against Lehigh on Aug. 29, 2002. Minniefield’s jaunt comes under the heading of a return since the ball carried past the line of scrimmage after Redden made contact.
“Our plan was to go after them and that’s what we did,” Redden said. “Once I saw there were three guys back there [blocking] and they were spread out I just told myself to run as fast as I can and hopefully I’d get something. And I got a blocked punt.”
The ball carried straight to Minniefield.
“Usually we don’t pick it up if it passes the line but I saw nobody was running to it so I just thought I’d jump on the opportunity,” he said. “It was kind of surreal at first.
Punting has been one of the UMass strengths throughout the season. In fact, punter Colter Johnson responded to the block by drilling his next attempt 61 yards. It was downed at the UB 4.
The Bulls may have caught a break with 9:10 remaining. Cordero Dixon muffed a punt deep in UB territory with the ball going over the end zone sideline during the ensuing scramble. It was ruled Dixon never had possession, with the play resulting in a touchback. Replays seemed to indicate that Dixon not only had possession but made a “football move” before he was separated from the ball. Officials reviewed the play but stood by their call.
UB’s captains for the game were defensive end Colby Way, linebacker Lee Skinner, center Trevor Sales and right tackle Gokhan Ozkan. ... UB opened the game with an end-around hand-off to Natey Adjei, a true freshman from Mississauga, Ont. The play picked up 2 yards. It was the first time Adjei has touched the ball this season.